Come December the BBC Sound of 2011 poll results will be published. (We'll also be publishing our own 10 UK acts to watch next year starting 1st December, see here) The annual poll of a hundred or so people who influence the music we listen to and consume often gives a strong clue as to some of the new artists that are going to be fashionable in 2011. We use the word fashionable purposefully here rather than successful, because music and fashion, as we have often argued on this blog, are interlinked. Both are luxury items that in order to excite the purchaser and therefore create demand to make them buy again need to constantly reinvent themselves. Not all the artists on the 2011 poll will be successful, but for a certain period of time they will probably all be in fashion whilst attempts are made to create the demand.
Last year Breaking More Waves was one of the nominated voters on the Sound of 2010 poll, our votes being cast for Ellie Goulding (who came top), Stornoway (who were long listed) and Unicorn Kid (who wasn’t). We were particularly pleased to see Stornoway climb onto the list as at the time they were still unsigned – the exposure from being on the ‘Sound of’ can be invaluable when trying to get your music heard.
However, even if your music is heard, that doesn’t guarantee success commercially. Ultimately the public decide if they are going to part with their cash to buy your singles and albums, and with new records still retailing anywhere between £7 and £10, music is still very much a luxury item.
The former boss of record label Warner Music UK, Rob Dickins, at this years In The City called for the price of music albums to be radically cut to just £1. The idea is that such a price would make using the internet to download copyrighted music illegally, for free, pointless. It was a radical headline grabbing idea, effectively reducing an album from a luxury item to a standard one.
How consumers would act if such a proposal was carried through is of course unknown. However by reducing the status of an album away from luxury it could fundamentally change the way the music industry worked – no longer would it need to constantly reinvent itself to sell new product by creating excitement. Music could suddenly become non- fashion orientated.
The knock on effect for new music would be very interesting; it could revolutionise or ruin. Would suddenly new acts become irrelevant as purchasers simply turned to updating back catalogues as everything was so cheap? Or would new acts gain greater sales numbers, the public willing to accept the risk that a particular album may not be life changing, but as it was only £1 they would give it a go? And where would music bloggers fit into this? With music so cheap would it really be worth the time reading a blog, why not just take a gamble, and if you don’t like what you’ve bought once you’ve listened, bin it. Or would blogs become increasingly respected as guides to the public, pointing them in the direction of new music that suits their tastes, if as likely the market becomes even more flooded than it is now.
Would the BBC Sound of List, with an over saturated market of £1 albums ultimately become the UK’s regular new music guide, in a revised form, being published weekly or monthly to assist and guide purchasers of new music, with a panel voting what they recommend the public should be listening to.
These of course, are just theoretical ideas, and someone has actually got to try the £1 album idea, but we’d be interested in your views on the cost of an album and if they were reduced to £1 how it would affect new music. In the meantime here’s an artist we very much hope will feature in the BBC Sound of 2011 list. James Blake.HEK 004 A James Blake - Air and Lack Thereof by Hemlockrecordings